Pacers collapse in fourth quarter, Knicks win in rout to even series

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It all started with 3:05 left in the third quarter. The Pacers had been on a 10-4 run and had taken a two-point lead — Indiana had the momentum. Game 2 of this second round series was starting to look a lot like Game 1, when the Pacers beat the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Then with 3:05 left Pacers coach Frank Vogel called timeout. You don’t often see the team on the run call the timeout. Vogel also wanted to get his key big man Roy Hibbert some rest and subbed in Jeff Pendergraph. Soon Carmelo Anthony stole the ball from Paul George, then on the offensive end Anthony isolated on David West and took him to the hole for a lay-up. There was no Hibbert there to slow him.

After a Knicks stop, Carmelo isolated on West again, drove the lane, Pendergraph rotated late and Anthony dunked all over him and got the and-1.

That was the start of a ridiculous 30-2 Knicks run — Indiana didn’t score from the field for more than 12 minutes — that turned a close game into a blowout and a 105-79 Knicks win. Anthony finished with 32 points and 9 rebounds.

This series is now tied 1-1 and headed to Indiana. Eventually. These two teams are off until Saturday night.

From the start of the game the Knicks played with some desperation and with a better plan of attack — more pick-and-roll, they are driving into the paint and looking for kick-outs. Raymond Felton started 4-of-4, the Knicks closed the quarter on 18-9 run and lead 29-20 after 12 minutes.

The Pacers were still getting their looks — they shot 54.5 percent in the first half — but only had 42 points because of 12 turnovers. They finished the game with 21 turnovers, or 23.9 percent of their possessions ended in a turnover for the game. Nearly one in four trips down the court.

Still, after the Knicks missed last six shots, Pacers closed the half on an 8-0 to make it 47-42 Knicks at the break.

Anthony continued his struggles in the first half — he had 10 points but needed 11 shots to get there. Anthony and J.R. Smith combined to shoot 33% in first half, rest of Knicks team knocking down 60.9%.

But the second half — and particularly the fourth quarter — was like a different game.

Anthony shot 9-of-15 in the second half for 22 points. Tyson Chandler shot 3-of-3, as did Pablo Prigioni. Kenyon Martin shot 2-of-2, Iman Shumpert was 2-of-3. Everything worked for the Knicks (except J.R. Smith, who was 0-5).

It was more than the offense, the Knicks upped their defensive pressure and played like the desperate team after Vogel’s timeout. The Pacers went 12 minutes without a bucket from the field, they shot just 4-of-16 in the fourth, and their offense completely broke down. Earlier in the game they were getting their looks working inside out, but as they fell behind the Pacers just started to jack up threes.

I expect the Pacers, back at home and feeling comfortable Saturday, will return more to their form.

The question is which Knicks team shows up, the one from the first half or the one from the fourth quarter. If it’s the latter, it will not matter where the game is played.

Stan Van Gundy talks up Pistons’ rookie Luke Kennard

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Luke Kennard came out of Duke with one of the best jump shots in the draft — he’s got a skill that translates to the NBA and will help the Pistons. The questions were about his defense and athleticism, but he started to answer those when he averaged 17.2 points a game in the Orlando Summer League. He hit threes but generally just looks like a guy who just knows how to get buckets.

So far, at the Pistons’ training facility and in the Orlando Summer League, coach and decision maker with the Pistons Stan Van Gundy likes what he sees from his rookie, he told the Pistons’ official website.

“Pretty much what we thought offensively, maybe even did a better job passing the ball than I thought,” Van Gundy said. “He’s able to make plays off the dribble , that nice change of pace, and things I hadn’t seen a lot of. He really has a great feel for the game and how to play in addition to clearly his ability to shoot the ball….

“We’ve seen that a lot. He’s got great mental toughness,” Van Gundy said. “The thing I have great confidence in is that as he runs into challenges in the league – and everybody does and he’ll be no exception – I just think he’s a smart guy who’s adaptable. I think he’ll figure out a way to combat it. I’ve got great confidence in his ability to do that….

“The thing I didn’t know that he showed me is he has the ability to move his feet defensively. Now, he’s still got a long way to go in terms of handling some of the other things, rotations and things like that. But he certainly showed that he can get down in a stance and move his feet. I did not have a good feel for that going into the draft, so that was a positive.”

Yes, you should take a coach talking up a rookie before a game is played with a grain of salt.

However, the comment about the potential to defend is good news. SVG is right that mental toughness, and willingness to put in the work, is what will allow Kennard to take steps forward, but he has to have a baseline to get there and Van Gundy thinks he has that. Kennard has challenges ahead of him but if he can keep hitting shots the Pistons will give him time to work out everything else.

Kennard is going to get plenty of run as the backup to Avery Bradley at the two in Detroit. In with a second unit of guys like Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver, Kennard is going to get his chances to score. He could put up decent numbers for a rookie.

 

John Wall has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral (VIDEO)

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If the Redskins need a quarterback should Kirk Cousins go down — he has played a full 16-game schedule the past two years, which is pretty remarkable — maybe rather than Colt McCoy Washington should look at the guy who makes the Wizards’ go.

John Wall showed on Friday he has a strong arm, can throw a tight spiral, and hit his man.

I love that Wall starts calling out Tom Brady after one good pass.

Michael Beasley had his truck stolen out of his driveway

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Michael Beasley will be getting buckets, shooting long twos, and playing inconsistent defense for the New York Knicks next season (the analysis is just based on recent history).

But first, he’d like to find his truck. Which was stolen.

Well, I did see a Dodge Ram 1500 on the road today, but since I’m on the West Coast and I have no idea what color/year Beasley’s truck is, I’m going to assume the guy I saw didn’t perpetrate the heist.

Still, that sucks for Beasley, even if he can easily afford to replace it.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.